The interim president of the Caribbean Football Union, Randolph Harris, has cautioned that recent statements by the governments of St. Lucia and Dominica supporting Morocco's bid to host to the 2026 World Cup don't necessarily mean that is how the countries will vote.
The joint bid of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. is the only other group aiming to win the hosting rights for the tournament. With each of FIFA's 204 member associations taking part in the vote, the North American bid is counting on heavy support from CONCACAF countries in order to be successful as the bidding nations are all excluded from voting.
But last Tuesday, Dominica's Foreign Minister, Francine Baron, announced Dominica would support Morocco's bid following a meeting with the country's ambassador to St. Lucia, Abderrahim Kadmiri.
"On behalf of Dominica, I am pleased to announce the support of my country for Morocco in the organization of the 2026 World Cup," Baron said in a statement.
The announcement comes on the heels of a similar declaration last week by St. Lucia's Minister of Development and Sports, Edumnd Estephane, who also met with ambassador Kadmiri.
"My country's government will be strong and will back Morocco's bid 200 percent, which will do justice and honor the African continent and the Caribbean countries," said Estephane.
ESPN reported last month the race between the North American bid and Morocco was already much closer than expected, despite the joint bid having the required infrastructure already in place. This was due in part to lingering resentment over the U.S. Department of Justice's investigations into FIFA corruption, which ensnared several Caribbean soccer administrators, including former CONCACAF presidents Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb.
The policies of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, including a travel ban against mostly Arab countries, have also caused difficulty for the bid.
The announcements would seem to indicate that the North American bid's base of support among CONCACAF countries isn't as strong as it might have thought. At minimum, it would indicate that resources are needed to shore up support among CONCACAF countries.
Harris stated that he has heard nothing from the FAs of both Dominica and St. Lucia about their preference.
"As far as I understand it, these statements from St. Lucia and Dominica were made by the governments of these countries," Harris said via telephone. "Governments don't really vote in the FIFA Congress. I have not heard any confirmation from the FAs of either Dominica or St. Lucia indicating that they have endorsed these statements that were made publicly about their support for Morocco.
"As it stands, we in the Caribbean Football Union will get together and discuss the whole issue of both bids. We will come to a decision. As the leader of the CFU, our confederation has offered a bid for the World Cup in 2026 and I would think that as members of CONCACAF, our confederation, that we will be more apt to support CONCACAF."
FIFA regulations state that national soccer associations must be "independent and avoid any form of political interference." The statements from the St. Lucia and Dominica governments would appear to be in violation of those statutes.
One source indicated that both St. Lucia FA president Lyndon Cooper and Dominica FA president Glen Etienne are both feeling pressure from their respective governments to support Morocco, but are leaning towards the North American bid. Neither FA responded to a request for an interview.
It wouldn't be the first time FIFA's rules were bent when it comes to governmental interference related to World Cup bidding. It has been alleged that former UEFA president Michel Platini voted for Qatar to host in 2022 instead of the U.S. at the urging of France president Nikolas Sarkozy, though Platini has denied that was the case.
Sources have told ESPN FC that the joint bid, as well as CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, remains confident that the Caribbean countries will ultimately stay in the fold. FIFA stands to rake in billions of dollars from the joint bid, with ticket revenues alone expected to bring in $2.1 billion. That is money that can be directed towards the FIFA Forward Development program that aims to support the sport in developing nations.
Harris added that it is his belief that there is no backlash among the Caribbean countries to the joint bid, though he acknowledged that Morocco is putting up a fight.
"As far as I understand the situation, Morocco is very aggressive with their canvassing," he said. "I think they are working on the theory that with their assistance to the Caribbean at a governmental level, that it can be translated to the national football federations. At this moment I would think that is not the case. I have spoken to Dominica and St. Lucia and their leaders of football have not made any statement that they would support Morocco or not."
The technical inspection for the North American bid is slated to take place next week, followed by Morocco's.